I was looking for a suitable material to make a life sized statue of a dancing girl, when I happened to discover concrete !. The stuff was absolutely useless for that particular need, but I wondered what the problems were in casting objects in three dimensions. Normally when casting concrete one ends up with at least one rough face where the concrete is poured into the mould and I started to think about ways of avoiding this. I also wondered if it was possible to cast concrete components, that would accurately fit together. Now concrete has lots of strength in compression, but not in tension. It is also a brittle material easily damaged by shock, ingress of moisture and freezing, and is not normally suitable for flimsy sections and thin edges. So the first question was what sort of component should I attempt to make and after a few beers decided to make a cannon barrel !. No particular reason except it seemed like a reasonable subject ........ at the time !.
I just happened to know two chaps who owned a concrete products company and mulled my ideas over with them. They thought I was highly amusing !. I decided to proceed anyway and never realised at the time, that it would be five years before I got to the stage where I had a finished item. This was partly because I have an unfortunate habit of when I can see the end of a problem, I tend to move the goal posts, therefore creating new problems and the process becomes never ending. So it was with the cannon barrel , which developed into a complete cannon .... and then into three different cannons. The first was a naval cannon, the second a mortar and the last, which I was particularly pleased with, was a field gun.
I actually made two wooden, one third scale cartwheels using the original materials. I now have a lot of respect for the wheelwright !. It is not an easy task getting 32 pieces of wood to fit together accurately, in the few seconds that it takes the tyre to shrink and pull all the components together into a strong assembly. After all that work I decided I would not dare leave the wheels out in the garden, in case they got stolen. If that had happened I would have hated myself for ever more !. This started me wondering if an ornamental cartwheel be cast in concrete .... that was strong enough to take the weight of a concrete cannon and two drunken men ?. All faces of the cast wheel had to be fair, with no pour holes, flashing marks or sprue breaks. One of the objectives for the cannon barrel was that the casting had to be accurate to museum standards. The problem with the cartwheel was that I had no prior knowledge if it was possible to get the strength required without resorting to the addition of reinforcement in the form of glass-fibres etc.. So I deliberately chose to copy an early example of a field gun, that historically had heavier construction wheels using six steel strakes instead of an iron tyre. This produced a thicker section rim, which added strength to the cast wheel. Did I succeed ?, well I will leave that up to you to decide when you view the photographs of the finished objects. All of the cannons are precisely one third scale. I had to chose this scale because larger scale components would have been to heavy to handle and the moulds large and prohibitively expensive. As with all pictures on this site, they have been rendered as thumbnails to speed loading. Simply click on a thumbnail picture to see it full size and use the browsers BACK button to return to the previous page.
The Naval Cannon.
The Field Gun
Some of the masters & moulds made for the above cannon.